The unemployment rate at the end December was 5.7%. This was the lowest rate in forty (40) years, and a significant improvement over September when it was 6.2%. During the previous 12 months, Canada added a very strong 422,500 jobs of which 394,200 were permanent full time jobs.
As just one indicator of the markets, and for the purposes of this report I focus on the TSX which showed strong growth during Q4, ending with a reading of 16,200 which was an improvement of 600 points from the end of Q3.
The price of a barrel of oil saw a little resurgence in the final quarter of 2017 reaching heights it hadn’t seen for a few years now. It remains to be seen whether a price near the $65 range is sustainable, or the result of some OPEC activity but some companies are reacting positively.
The Canadian dollar continued to operate in the 80c US range, which was very similar to Q3. This was positive given how well the US economy has been performing.
The Canadian Staffing Index is an indicator of the strength of the largest provider of talent in any economy (the staffing industry) and an excellent barometer of the health of Canada’s economy. The reading latest reading Q4 was close to its high, at 123. This was a big jump from its Q3 reading of 109 and a reading of 116 in Q4 of last year.
Here at Eagle, demand was about as expected in Q4 which includes the holiday season. Client demand dipped about 15% and was very similar to demand in Q4 of last year. The number of job applicants was up more than 20% from Q4 of a year ago, and very similar to last quarter when we would have expected a seasonal dip.
Some of the sectors with big talent demands.
The financial sector is a huge employer in Canada and top talent is always in demand. Technology is a huge part of their ecosystem and they invest in leading-edge technologies to gain competitive advantage and to improve productivity. The banks have been leaders in automation (ATMs etc) and invest in AI, technology incubators and all of the latest innovations. There will continue to be a demand in their technology shops into the foreseeable future.
Like the banks, the telcos are big believers in technology and invest heavily. They have large technology groups and are always looking for ways to differentiate and gain competitive advantage through the use of technology. While they demand the best talent in order to compete, they are also careful about keeping employment costs under control, particularly as they are also acquisitive, which can mean a big focus on integration of acquired companies. Some of the drivers of demand here include the highly competitive nature of the business, investment in infrastructure, technological innovation and a need to plan for a retiring “Boomer” workforce.
The US economy continues to add jobs, and with the recently introduced tax changes we can anticipate more investment and an even bigger appetite for talent. The demand for skills in the US coupled with Canada’s increased tax burden will ensure that Canadian talent continues to head South.
The construction industry continues to thrive in Canada, and presents a good career opportunity. The never-ending demand from the big projects (look at the skyline in just about any city), coupled with the demand for home renovation projects will ensure this demand continues for some time yet. The aging workforce will also present opportunities, as workers retire.
The three levels of government in Canada are big employers, employing more than 20% of Canada’s workforce (CFIB). These are well-paying jobs with great benefits, and with the retiring baby boomer generation comes a continuing need for talent.
There are more than six (6) million people living in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and it is home to more than 50% of Canadian head offices. It is the 4th largest city in North America, and represents about 60% of Eagle’s business. As such it remains Canada’s busiest market, with the biggest appetite for talent. The financial, telecommunications, insurance and services sectors are all busy. The construction business is booming and there is a vibrant high tech/startup community.
There are plenty of signs that Western Canada is recovering from the oil sector meltdown. While the oil and gas sector itself is not particularly vibrant, it has turned the corner and the worst of the downsizing and layoffs are finished. Large companies will always need talent, to replace their retiring employees, for new projects and to bring new lifeblood into the organisation. Governments in Western Canada are continuing to implement programs and projects that require talent, infrastructure spending is happening and there are opportunities, particularly in the larger centres. BC is enjoying the lowest unemployment rate in the country and Alberta is starting to see jobs come back. Saskatchewan continues to be a leader in promoting business and hence job opportunities and Manitoba too is doing well. Overall the West is in a good place.
Eagle’s Eastern Canada region covers Ottawa, Montreal & the “Maritimes”. Ottawa is very much a government town again, and there are opportunities in the Feds, which is returning to its employment highs of some years ago. The tech sector in Ottawa is alive and well with some up and comers, like Shopify and Assent Compliance joinng the Mitels and others that have been around a while. While not providing the opportunities of Toronto, Ottawa does have some demand for talent. Quebec appears to be enjoying a renaissance as its unemployment rate is now better than Ontario’s, in addition to having healthier finances. They have been able to attract industries (such as large data centres) to help the economy and add jobs. It doesn’t hurt that their hydro rates are very competitive as opposed to Ontario’s situation. The Maritime Provinces don’t represent a great opportunity for the job seeker, however PEI and Nova Scotia are both showing signs of an improving economy.
The Hot Client Demand.
At Eagle our focus in on professional staffing and the people in demand from our clients have been fairly consistent for some time. Program Managers, Project Managers and Business Analysts always seem to be in demand. It might just be our focus, but Change Management and Organizational Excellence resources are in relatively high demand too. Digital, big data, data scientists, analytics, CRM, web (portal and self-serve) and mobile expertise (especially developers) are specializations that we are seeing more and more. On the Finance and Accounting side, we see a consistent need for Financial Analysts, Accountants with designations and public accounting experience plus Controllers as a fairly consistent talent request. Expertise in the Capital markets, both technical and functional, tends to be a constant ask in the GTA. Technology experts with functional expertise in Health Care is another skill set that also sees plenty of demand. This demand fluctuates based on geography and industry sectors, so we advise candidates to watch our website and apply for the roles for which they are best suited.
Outside of Eagle’s realm some of the in-demand skills include the classic tradespeople, drivers, and new tech skills like Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, video gaming skills etc.
Canada added more than 422,000 jobs last year, and with the unemployment rate at its lowest in 40 years it is a good time to be looking for work.
There are a number of factors creating this positive situation, including demographic shifts (retiring Baby Boomers), jobs moving to Canada from more expensive places like Silicon Valley and companies developing new technologies. The large employers, such as banking sector, insurance sector, retail sector, telecommunications sector and the construction industry continue to demand talent. The growth of the “gig economy” creates new opportunities for people to define their own destiny and become mini-entrepreneurs, or build new enterprises.
Job seekers should research and understand the growing sectors and where the in-demand jobs are. They also need to be willing to go where the work is! If I was looking for work I would be moving to the larger centres, investing in in-demand skills and increasing my marketability with the right “attitude”. Clearly the biggest job market is the GTA, but opportunity exists across the country.
In the hotter markets we are seeing clear skills shortages and the “in demand” people are receiving multiple job offers, giving them the ability to “pick and choose”. So … IF you are looking people, and want to hire the best talent here are some things you should consider:
- Start the process early with a strong PLANNING phase;
- Develop very clean processes to find, screen, choose, hire and onboard these new resources (if you drag out the hiring process you WILL lose);
- Know that you will have a lot of competition and therefore speed in decision making will be critical;
- The job doesn’t stop there … a great retention strategy will be critical!
That was my look at the Canadian job market for the third quarter of 2017 and some of its influences.
Kevin Dee is the founder and Chairman of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
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